Learning to Preach: The Nuts and Bolts

For years, fledgling pastors learned to preach a particular way, employing an ancient education method called the Trivium. It is still the best way. You begin by learning the basics, the fundamentals, the nuts and bolts, if you will.

David Helm calls them the building blocks, the principles of exposition. Rightly handling the word of truth involves making use of these tools in exegetical matters. A skilled expositor understands them but more important knows how to employ and use them as he or she does their text work. (For the record, I am a complimentarian who believes that women must develop their expositional skills in their ministries to other women.)

Posture: Who wrote this? (Divine and human authorship) How do I hear and receive it? How does it challenge my sinful nature?

Presuppositions: What am I bringing to this text that obscures it or diminishes its authority and/or meaning?

Context: What has preceded this text? What follows it? What history informs it?

Structure: How is this text put together? What form of writing is employed by the author?

Biblical storyline: Where does this text fit in the unfolding gospel story? How does it advance, inform, or fulfill it?

Christ-focus: What does it tell me about Christ? What grounds does it give to worship and exalt Him?

I realize that someone might say, “Well, the best way to learn to preach is to preach!” Well stated. I don’t disagree for the most part. However everything that is done requires some kind of guidelines, some direction to what is done and how it is done. The tools/principles mentioned above are important for two reasons. First of all, they have been developed over two thousand of years of Christian preaching by men who devoted their lives to the discipline of Gospel and biblical preaching. Secondly, they flow out of the nature of Scripture itself.

It begins with one’s posture toward Scripture. As the authoritative word of God, it’s very nature dicatates how it should be studied. This is where we will begin this holy pursuit.